I was looking through some photos recently and stumbled across an old photo of me from 1995. It was a newspaper clipping that had me with my head down on my keyboard sound asleep. No, it wasn’t a photo at the end of a night of hard-core gaming. It was at the opening of my business at midnight for the launch of Windows 95. This week sees the twenty fifth anniversary of the official launch of Microsoft Windows 95.

Steve Jobs had not been at Apple for ten years so this was a heady time for Microsoft. Money was no object. I remember attending a Microsoft conference in Los Angeles during those profitable Microsoft days and one afternoon at the conference hundreds of buses turned up and took us to a surprise venue. Microsoft had hired out Universal Studios just for conference attendees. The general public had been excluded and every ride was available for free for us. The expense must have been incredible.

And so it was with the launch – dare I say it the launch that started a trend that continues to this day of product announcements being events in their own right. The entire launch of Windows 95 cost Microsoft US$300 million (in 1995 terms). They bought the rights to the Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ and hired celebrities like Jay Leno to be live at the launch. The biggest sitcom in the world at the time was Friends so they hired Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry for a Windows 95 tutorial video.

But the important question: Did the product live up to the hype?

40 million sales in the first year would seem to suggest that customers could see the benefits of Windows 95 – many of which we still use today.

Windows 95 was the first desktop operating system built with 32-bit pre-emptive multitasking architecture which increased throughput dramatically when run on the latest processor available at the time – the Intel Pentium CPU!

It may seem like a childhood myth for many but before Windows 95 all filenames had to be in an 8.3 file format. For example, I may have saved this article as tktlk213.doc to give me some vague indication of the contents of the file. Looking back many months later it was often difficult to remember what was in a file when the name was limited to eight characters.

When we plug a new device in to our computer now there is an expectation that it will be discovered by the operating system and just start working. Windows 95 introduced the concept of Plug and Play – or as I often used to call the early unreliable versions, Plug and Pray.

Visually, the Start button and the Taskbar were both introduced in Windows 95 and live on in modified forms to this day.

Probably the endearing memory people have is what was affectionately known as The Microsoft Sound. Brian Eno, a pioneer in ambient music, was commissioned to write a piece of music that was inspiring, universal, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional and make it no longer than three seconds! Brian delivered his little jewel with an extended play time of six seconds but his dirty little secret was that he created it on a Mac!

With all of this expenditure on Windows 95, how long was the line outside my business when we opened at midnight? Well, not quite a line. We had two customers during our one hour opening timeslot. It seems the excitement had not filtered through to our clients!

Tell me your favourite memory of Windows 95 at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson

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